Youth leadership program promotes the outdoors

Fresh from an environmental workshop for youth held in Vancouver in July, Willa Julius,15, used some of the skills she gained there to organize a Get Outside event for youth at Scout Island beach on International Youth Day, Aug. 12.

Fresh from an environmental workshop for youth held in Vancouver  in July, Willa Julius,15, used some of the skills she gained there to organize a Get Outside event for youth at Scout Island beach on International Youth Day, Aug. 12.

About  30 children from the Hoy program and the Boys and Girls Club summer program participated, Willa says.

With help from her dad, a Scout Island summer student, and Boys and Girls Club supervisors the event was a success, Willa says.

“There was even a life guard, courtesy of the Boys and Girls Club, so the kids had a swim,” Willa says.

Organizing the Get Outside event sprang from a conference Willa attended at North Vancouver’s Outdoor School. She was one of 40 students selected from around the province to participate in the summit, based on their applications outlining their passion for the outdoors.

“It was an awesome experience,” Willa says. “I met some fantastic mentors and learned an abundance of great camping skills. We also learned about media and the fundamentals about a successful event. We had a hike every morning and enjoyed some night hikes as well. We even watched bats.”

Willa and her group are the first participants in a new provincial program called Get Outside B.C. — an outdoor leadership program for youth led by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and BC Parks.

In July the teenagers, ages 14 to 18, attended an expenses paid, week-long series of workshops in Squamish where they learned outdoor skills and event planning as their initiation into the world of outdoor leadership.

They left with a task: to create a community event that will inspire others to “get outside.”

“I chose to make sort of like a fun day at Scout Island for youth in our community,” Willa says of her community project.

“There was fruit, juice and awesome prizes that were all donated from local stores and supermarkets. I had put posters up all around town and tried to spread the word any which way I could.”

In keeping with the environmental theme she says they had a scavenger hunt to find litter around Scout Island and put it in the garbage.

“It was fun and helped to clean up a little.”

They had a mountain goat race where runners had to balance a stick vertically on the palm of their hand while they ran.

But mostly, she says, the kids had fun swimming.

They composted the fruit and vegetable leftovers from their lunch and drank juice from reusable cups. “There was little to no waste, so there was no problem with garbage.”

Local businesses donated prizes for three draws of various items in a group, but Willa says the kids ended up sharing their draw prizes so that everyone got a little something.

In October she says the students and mentors she met at the conference in July will reunite by via videoconferencing to discuss how their various community projects went.

Get Outside B.C. is co-created by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and BC Parks, with additional support from Mountain Equipment Co-op, Parks Canada, and the Child and Nature Alliance. It’s sparked by a desire to get digital youth into the great outdoors.


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